RPG Inquiry: Legion

Alright, I want to shift gears for a bit.  I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the video games that I played at MomoCON, and there’s still at least one more to talk about, but today I want to take the time to talk about one of the tabletop games that I demo’d as well.  It’s a sci-fi, military-themed RPG called Legion by a company called Terminus Productions.

Some Background

So I don’t have enough information to do a full-on analysis of this game because I played a demo and skimmed the book at the con instead of reading it in-depth.  Maybe in the future I’ll pick up a full copy and do something in more detail, but RPG books don’t tend to be cheap.

Legion, according to the gentleman demoing it, who I believe was also one of the game designers, started its conceptualization as a licensed RPG for the HALO series.  Apparently the issue wasn’t acquiring the license, although that might’ve been an issue if they had gotten that far, it was a concern over some of the issues that come with a licensed RPG.  The example that came up was that while you would capture the overlap between HALO fans and RPG fans, you’re likely to only capture that audience.  I’m an RPG fan, but I’m not big into the HALO games and my affection for first-person shooters is casual at best, and I probably would’ve passed a HALO RPG by.  I could, and probably will, do an entire article on this another time.

The art style for the cover and illustrations was a blend of anime and western cartoon-style that worked really well at points and not so well at others.  The cover gave me a sort of Starship Troopers vibe, which was a pretty solid representation of what the game held.  So without further posturing, let’s dive in.

The Lore

Legion is a sci-fi game based around a military culture, with the player characters being servicemembers in one of the military’s six branches: Mobile Infantry, Fleet, Engineers, Administration, Judicial, or Intelligence.  This was a little wonk to me as a veteran because I typically don’t expect people with admin or legal MOS’s to go do the fighting.  Not that they don’t end up fighting sometimes, but I’d never expect a briefing to be like:

Commander:  Alright men, we’re gearing up for a high risk extraction.  We can only get five men in so we’re sending the best.  Staff Sergeant Weathers, a graduate of Ranger school, will be leading you.  We’re sending you in with our best cavalry scout, forward observer, infantry machine gunner, and accountant!

Soldiers: Yes sir… wait…

Commander: What?

SSG Weathers:  Did you just say… accountant?

Commander: That’s right, you got a problem with that?  Frank from accounting will be joining you.  That’s an order!

It’s actually fine in practice, though, but I’ll get to that more in the mechanics section.

The players are part of a federation of races and societies similar to the United Federation of Planets from Star Trek.  Honestly, even though the game was meant to be Halo-ish, I got a pretty strong Star Trek vibe from the lore.  This is actually really cool because I like a lot of Star Trek’s flavor but I think that the universe has some limitations that affect what you could do in an RPG.

The races themselves run a wide gamut from familiar to unique.  You’ve got your space elves and your space dwarves, but you’ve also got some unfamiliar species like the multi-armed Onigrimm whose physiology makes very little sense.  The writers really seemed to be erring on the side of cool rather than hard sci-fi when they put this together.

Also non-evil Illithids, which I'm pretty sure  is blasphemy.

Also non-evil Illithids, which I’m pretty sure is blasphemy.

The other element of the lore that is really worth mentioning is “shade.”  Shade is a sort of unnatural force that infects and corrupts life.  A person who is infected with shade is stronger, faster, and more powerful, but also likely to be physically warped and mentally deranged.  The concept seems similar to Shadowlands taint from the Legend of the Five Rings RPG, if you’re familiar.

The Mechanics

The game uses d20 mechanics as its core, but this game is far from a reskin of 3e D&D or D20 Future.  Aside from the familiar stat lines and saves, the game is very different.

Instead of the standard D&D classes you have your branch of service, with two different archetypes within the branches.  Mobile infantry are your fighters, either close combat or ranged, Fleet are your acrobatic fast guys, and Intelligence includes assassin-y sneaky types and so on.

Also, instead of levels you have “terms of service,” which represent how long your character has been in the military.  These are like levels, and in some ways are basically new skin on the same drum, but they take longer to acquire and have a higher power jump than just gaining a level in D&D.  A first term of service character is closer in power to a fifth level D&D adventurer, which means that at level one you can be a badass instead of just trying to not die.  It also means that you can fight similar level threats for longer, and the DM doesn’t have to escalate things every session.

Aside from saves, everything is skills.  Even attacks are resolved by a relevant skill roll for the weapon that you’re using.  I think this is actually a lot better than attack rolls being completely different because it makes fighting more intuitive.  Really, I think that the more things you can resolve with the same set of mechanics the better.

I walked through character creation and it looks pretty straightforward.  It seems a little bit more complex in some areas than standard d20 character creation, but it also seems more streamlined in others.  There are options for both random ability score generation as well as point buy.  There are some things, such as what academy your character went into, that have some random determination to them regardless, which kind of bothers me because some options are just objectively better than others.

Of course, because I walked through character creation rather than going through it and examining it in as much depth as I would have liked, I could have missed something.  I also didn’t get the chance to play around with shade, which I think could have been fun.

I’m not comfortable giving this game a grade until I’ve delved into it more and actually played through a campaign of it.  What I can say is that I thought it was fun and it’s on my list of RPGs to pick up.  There’s also currently an expansion with rules for playing as mercenaries, and that sounds like a ton of fun.  For more information, you can pick up the game here.

This will also be my last article about the games I played at MomoCON, so less reviewy programming will pick up soon.

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